The bishop representing the Catholic Church’s opposition to so-called “three-parent embryos” said he hoped there would be alternative means found to treat mitochondrial diseases that did not involve the destruction of human embryos.
Bishop John Sherrington issued his statement after MPs overwhelmingly decided by 382 votes to 128 to allow the UK to become the first country in the world to practise mitochondrial replacement, ignoring ethical objections and reservations about safety. (For background, see this Q&A in The Independent, and CV Comment here).
Robert Flello, a Catholic Labour MP who represents Stoke-on-Trent South, said he feared “families will be let down tragically” due to the uncertainties in the technique and that society would be “up in arms” if this was a proposal for genetically modified crops.
“You are not curing somebody of something; you are creating someone different. People have compared it to blood transfusions. That is simply wrong,” said Jacob Rees Mogg, a Conservative Catholic MP who voted against the amendment.
Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, warned that the implications of this step “simply cannot be predicted” but that “the genie would be out of the bottle: there will be no going back for society.”
The new law will come into effect in October 2015. Human trials can then begin immediately and the first babies could be born next autumn.
On the eve of the vote, CV Caroline Farrow put the case against on ITV News. (See interview here.)
Statement by Bishop John Sherrington
“Despite the genuine and considerable concerns of many people, the decision of Parliament is clear on this issue. Whilst the Church recognises the suffering that mitochondrial diseases bring and hopes that alternative methods of treatment can be found, it remains opposed on principle to these procedures where the destruction of human embryos is part of the process. This is about a human life with potential, arising from a father and a mother, being used as disposable material. The human embryo is a new human life with potential; it should be respected and protected from the moment of conception and not used as disposable material.”
Statement by Bishop John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley
“The proposed techniques fail on a number of ethical grounds which should concern us all: They destroy human life, since in order to construct a disease free embryo, two healthy ones will have to be destroyed. The technique is not a treatment, it does not cure anyone or anything, rather it seeks to remove anyone affected by certain conditions from the human gene pool. Destroying those who have a particular disease and presenting it as a cure or as progress is utterly disingenuous and completely unethical.”